Seal Beach’s Bill Ayres seems to have reached the pinnacle of success in the world of community volunteerism.
You might say it’s something he “ran into.”
As the leader of the Seal Beach 5K/10K Races, Ayres has continued to expand the amount of money the running event raises for local sports programs and facilities. Last year’s event set a new record of earning more than $100,000 that was mostly plowed directly back into the community.
The Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce recognized Ayres’ community service in 2008, when the Chamber chose him to be the Grand Marshall of the Seal Beach Christmas Parade.
Now the Cypress College Foundation will honor Ayres as the Seal Beach Citizen of the Year at The 35th Annual Americana Awards. It will be held Feb. 20, at the Disneyland Hotel Grand Ballroom.
The awards salute citizens of the year from the eight cities that form Cypress College’s primary service area. For example, the foundation will honor Nancy Diane Kimber, M.D. as the Los Alamitos/Rossmoor Citizen of the Year.
In addition, the Americana Award honors a man of the year. This year it is National Baseball Hall of Fame member Tommy Lasorda, who has become known as much for his charity work as for his left-handed pitching and skills as a manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Ayres said he was honored to be chosen for the award and to represent Seal Beach at the event.
The Americana Awards is the college’s largest fundraiser. Proceeds from the black-tie affair support scholarships, the “Mini Grants” program and other college initiatives that wouldn’t otherwise be funded.
The 35th Annual Americana Awards take place on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2010 at the Disneyland Hotel Grand Ballroom.
The Americana Awards salute citizens of the year from the eight cities that form Cypress College’s primary service area. In addition, Americana honors a man of the year.
Ayres is a longtime runner and promoter of the activity and sports in general as a way to stay healthy.
While a high school freshman in San Antonio, Ayres began running track, wining the Texas State Championship in the mile run his senior year. He attended Texas A&M University and also ran track there while earning bachelor degree in marketing with a minor in mechanical engineering. Being a member of the famed Texas Aggie Corp of Cadets following graduation, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force where he served three and a half years.
While his work with the Seal Beach 5K/10K has reached great heights, he says it may have reached it summit.
The race showed a 20 percent increase in participants last year year.
Ayres said, however, that the event was too crowded at the finish line.
“We’ve got to start thinking about limiting the enrollment,” he said.
The race will go on again on April 10, 2010 when Seal Beach hosts its 36th annual run. “This is one of the most recognized 5 /10K runs in the Southern California Racing circuit,” he said. “Its success is a reflection of the race committee volunteers’ diligent efforts.”
Ayres and many of the committee members work on the event throughout the year. Because of the growth of this event, he now finds it necessary to spend seven to eight months working full time on the various details.
After the event, non-profit organizations within the city of Seal Beach and those serving the Los Alamitos Unified School District are invited to apply for a grant funding for recreation, physical fitness and wellness programs, equipment and scholarships from the event’s net proceeds.
Grant requests last year ranged from $600 to $18,000.
Over the last nine years, the race has generated more than $500,000 that has been given back to the local communities.
Ayres moved to Seal Beach about 25 years and quickly got involved with the local running community.
His first volunteer work was with the Seal Beach Cancer Run. Today, the Cancer Support Foundation is affiliated with the Seal Beach 5&10K event.
This involvement led him to volunteer for the Seal Beach 10K, an event that was being administered by the city of Seal Beach Recreation Department.
“The city decided it was too time-consuming for the recreation department to be involved and wanted an outside organization to take it over,” he said.
During this time, Ayres had become the president of the Running Experience Club of Long Beach, which had 220 active members.
“I was able to convince our group to take over the handling of the Seal Beach 10K and return most of the proceeds to the city of Seal Beach for recreation purposes,” he said. “This process continued for several years and it became apparent that a well-organized local Seal Beach group would be best suited to make this event grow to the next level.”
In 1998, Ayres took the next step and worked to incorporate the Seal Beach 10K into a nonprofit organization and began putting together the single 10K race into three different races: a 5K run, a 10K run and a 1K Kid’s Fun Run, all on the same morning.
“I have seen the yearly participation grow from 300 runners to a total exceeding over 5,500 runners/walkers in April 2009,” he said.
Seven years ago, Ayres sold his company, W.T. Ayres & Associates, retired and began devoting most of his time to the Seal Beach 5/10K, which, he said, “I really enjoy and it keeps me busy.”
With each year’s race completed, Ayres and his wife, Gail, enjoy vacations in foreign countries as well as in the U.S. In addition to traveling and working on the annual event in Seal Beach, he runs about 15 miles each week, rides his bicycle along the San Gabriel River bike path and plays golf.